Too busy for the principal?
“A sixth-grader at Shaw Heights Middle School [in Colorado]was handcuffed and taken to a holding facility for disobeying the orders of an assistant principal during lunch and being ‘argumentative and extremely rude,’ ” says The Denver Post. “An Adams County Sheriff’s Office incident report says the assistant principal found the girl walking in the hallway during lunch because the girl claimed she was cold and needed to get a sweater from her locker. The report says the assistant principal was in mid-sentence when the girl ‘turned and walked away saying, ‘I don’t have time for this.’’ When intervention efforts with a counsellor failed, the girl was handcuffed and put in the school resource officer’s patrol car and taken to a juvenile holding facility.”
Edison was godlike
“I knew vaguely that [Thomas]Edison had become the object of worship for a Japanese religious group called Denshinkyo, or ‘electric gods,’ but have never met anyone remotely involved,” cultural anthropologist Christal Whelan writes for The Daily Yomiuri. “According to a newspaper article in 1949, a Japanese ministry granted the group official status after deliberating whether it was Buddhist, Shinto or something else. As the group’s object of worship was ‘ Edison-no-mikoto’ (‘ mikoto’ is a suffix used for deities) the ministry identified it as Shinto. … Edison’s birthday on Feb. 11 happens to fall on National Founding Day, when Shinto shrines celebrate the ‘birth’ of the country and offer prayers for the prosperity of the nation. At Iwashimizu Hachimangu, the celebration is followed at noon by a gathering of shrine priests, staff and local people to give thanks to Thomas Edison. I joined them this year. … ‘Is Edison a god?’ I asked Norito Sakurai, a young priest. ‘In the past, Edison might have been deified, but not now,’ Sakurai said as he stopped to reflect for a moment. ‘The base of Shinto is that we humans manage to live because of water, trees and nature. We’re expressing a deep gratitude that goes beyond the nation. Through Edison’s invention and genius, people’s lives were enriched. He gave us light.’ ”
The keys to the space station
“It sounds like the plot of a campy science-fiction flick: Thieves steal a laptop containing the codes used to command and control the International Space Station. Except it happened,” says USA Today. “The March, 2011, theft of the unencrypted computer was one of 5,408 cybersecurity incidents – many foreign-based – the space agency reported during the past two years, according to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. … [T]ere’s nothing to indicate the ISS was affected in any meaningful way.”
You can mystify yourself
“Nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself,” the magician Teller writes for Smithsonian magazine. “David P. Abbott was an Omaha magician who invented the basis of my ball trick back in 1907. He used to make a golden ball float around the parlour. After the show, Abbott would absentmindedly leave the ball on a bookshelf while he went to the kitchen for refreshments. Guests would sneak over, heft the ball and find it was much heavier than a thread could support. So they were mystified. But the ball the audience had seen floating weighed only five ounces. The one on the bookshelf was a heavy duplicate, left out to entice the curious. When a magician lets you notice something on your own, his lie becomes impenetrable.”
A mild winter for bees, too
“Tim Tucker, a beekeeper in Niotaze, Kan., said he saw flies in February when ‘all flies should be gone’ and bumblebees that usually don’t appear until May or June,” Associated Press reports. “The warm weather hasn’t been entirely good for beekeeping, though. Usually, queen bees won’t lay eggs in the cold but, this year, his hives have been active. ‘This year, we have some hives that raised bees all winter,’ Mr. Tucker said. ‘I don’t think they ever stopped.’ Because so many bees are being raised, Mr. Tucker has had to buy supplemental food, such as sucrose, so they don’t eat all the honey he wants to sell.”
When scientists go bad
Notes on science fraud from Discover magazine:
– If caught stealing someone else’s ideas, scientists have a handy defence: cryptomnesia, the idea that a person can experience a memory as a new, original thought.
– Even geniuses succumb to temptation. Researchers have found that Isaac Newton fudged numbers in his Principia, generally considered the greatest physics text ever written.
– In 1974, immunologist William Summerlin created a sensation when he claimed to have transplanted tissue from black to white mice. In reality, he used a black felt-tip pen to darken patches of fur on white mice. Some researchers still use “painting the mice” to describe scientific fraud.
– Harvard evolutionary psychologist Marc Hauser resigned last year after he was found guilty of eight counts of scientific misconduct. Now he’s working on a book, reportedly titled Evilicious: Explaining Our Evolved Taste for Being Bad.
THOUGHT DU JOUR
“The strength or weakness of our conviction depends more on our courage than on our intelligence.”
Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-47)